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Sunday Sound Thought 20 – Pulling Focus

Posted by on May 15, 2016 | 0 comments

As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…

A few weeks ago, I talked about the idea of a sonic version of the “visual zoom.” This past week, I had the realization that there’s a sonic analogue to another camera trick…pulling focus. Quite simply, it’s pulling a fuzzy picture into focus using the lens (or maybe taking it out of focus). Depending on the budget, the camera department on some projects will have a single person dedicated to “pulling focus.”

I can think of two key ways we can emulate this in sound, though there arguably are probably more.

The first is with reverb. Think of the a wide open and very reverberant space, with a single speaker blasting out a spoken announcement. Depending on you location in that space, the reflections may make it impossible to actually interpret what is being said. If you move closer to the source…giving yourself a more distinct time separation between the source and reflections…you’re likely going to have an easier time comprehending what’s being said. The sound is more in focus.

The second way is by applying atypical recording techniques with your microphones, especially with those that have a less-than-flat frequency response as you move off axis. The shift from off-axis to on can increase the clarity of the sound you’re recording. Additionally, you may be adjusting its position to the source in a way that alters the timing of the sound’s arrival at the capsule…adding doppler shift to that change spectrum! Don’t think that’s an interesting sound design technique? Someone people might disagree with you. Watch one application demonstrated here.


News: Annual GameSoundCon Survey

Posted by on May 10, 2016 | 1 comment

GameSoundCon - The Art, Technology and Business of Game Audio - September 27-28, 2016, Los Angeles, CA. Article by Adriane Kuzminski.

Photo: GameSoundCon

It’s that time of year again, and the folks at GameSoundCon are conducting their annual Game Audio Industry Survey. The survey will be conducted until 31 May, and it is aimed to reflect current trends in the industry relating to compensation and budget, work and environment, use of live musicians and middleware, education, job finding, and contract terms. If you are an employee who receives a regular paycheck from a company, or a freelancer who is paid by the project, GameSoundCon would love to hear from you. Your answers are anonymous, and they will only be used for statistical purposes.

It’s also not a bad time to mention early bird registration is now open for GameSoundCon, which will take place at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles on 27-28 September. Everyone is invited to attend, whether you are a composer or producer transitioning into games, an audio pro interested in understanding more about the technology and business side, a game music researcher, or someone looking to network or learn how to get into the industry. The conference is also accepting speaker submissions, particularly those about audio for VR, game music post-mortems, and peer-reviewed game audio research. To learn more, check out their ‘Who Should Attend?’ Page as well as the descriptions of their 2015 Sessions.


Media Sound Hamburg – Including Master Class with Randy Thom

Posted by on May 9, 2016 | 0 comments

From July 8th through July 17th, Internationale Film Fernseh und Musik Akademie will be hosting Media Sound Hamburg; its 6th International summer school for film music, game music and sound design. The event will be taking place at Elsa-Braendstroem-Haus in Hamburg-Blankenese, Germany. Additionally, Randy Thom will be presenting a separate Master Class July 8th through 10th focusing on sound design.

A flat-rate ticket for the full event (excluding Mr. Thom’s master class) are 1.800 €, the “Forums” only ticket is 150 €, and tickets for Randy Thom’s master class are 4.000 €.

For more information, visit the Media Sound Hamburg website.

Sunday Sound Thought 19 – Functions of Sound

Posted by on May 8, 2016 | 2 comments

As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…

I like to regularly spend some time thinking about how I describe sound to people who aren’t so focused on sound. It gives me a chance to prep very basic ideas for collaborators in the hopes that, in the process of quickly explaining them, they will some ideas about how to use sound in their projects…or, honestly, to make them want to give me some room to explore those ideas to make their stories more dynamic. A key group I like to talk about is the functions sound can play in a narrative. I’m posting them here so other people can use them, but also to see if anyone out there in the community has ideas to add to this.

I have five key functions that I quickly explain.

  • Physical Representation – The old line, “See a dog, hear a dog.” It’s building the world around the characters and placing the characters in that world. This is a really low-level basic function.
  • Directing Attention – Sounds can draw the eye to a specific portion of the screen, or away from it. What do we want the audience to see? What do we want them to ignore. The way the visual edit is constructed has a strong effect on where the viewer’s attention goes, and sound can augment and solidify that direction.
  • Characterization – The sounds we attribute to objects and people tells us about their nature, and helps add meaning to their existence and actions.
  • Provide Perspective – Sound can help place the viewer in the moment. Are they supposed to be connecting to a specific character? Are they supposed to understand the inner workings of some device? The sounds we choose to include tell the viewer, even if it’s only at a subconscious level, what lens they’re viewing the story through. This can have a major impact on the way the story is interpreted.
  • Commentary – Sound can provide comment on the actions and events on screen. For a simple example, think of any comedic moment that uses sound to punctuate the gag (Looney Tunes anyone?). Want to provide a little wink or nudge to the audience? Sound is a great way to do this.

So what do you think? I feel this list stays just under the threshold of getting too long, and provides plenty for a collaborator to think about. Is there anything you feel that’s missing?

News: AOS Presents: Dr. Godfried-Willem Raes and His Robot Orchestra

Posted by on May 5, 2016 | 0 comments

Dozens of robotic orchestral instruments line the walls of an industrial performance space. Article by Adriane Kuzminski.

Photo: The Robot Orchestra at the Logos Foundation Performance space -

Recently, Architect of Sound interviewed Dr. Godfried-Willem Raes – General Director of the “Robot Orchestra” Logos M&M (Man and Machine) Ensemble, President of the artist-run Logos Foundation of experimental music and sound in Ghent, Belgium, and composer – or music maker as he puts it – of new-music.

For a small taste of the article, the Logos Foundation was named after ‘Logos 3:5’, a piece a young Godfried-Willem Raes wrote in conservatory and performed with students – which lead to the group’s ban from the conservatory. Luckily, the group stayed together and evolved into the new-music production center. The ensemble is now a 67-piece robot orchestra and a crew of (human) musicians, dancers, technicians, and others who travel around Western and Northern Europe to perform and host workshops about instrument creation. To learn more, read AOS’s interview linked above and check out the Logos Foundation’s schedule of upcoming events.

News: The Detroit Chop Shop Summer Internship

Posted by on May 3, 2016 | 0 comments

If you are a student or recent graduate over the age of 21, Ric Viers would like to invite you to apply to his internship at The Detroit Chop Shop. This three month unpaid internship is an opportunity for you to learn how to record, edit and design sound effects, attain real-world experience, participate in Chop Shop projects with clients such as ABC, ESPN, BET, HGTV and Skywalker Sound, and receive mentorship under Ric Viers.

The deadline for submissions is May 13, 2016, and the internship runs from June to August 2016. To apply for this program, submit a video (strictly one minute or less) to, expressing your personal charm and why you think you have what it takes to intern at the Chop Shop. This internship is all about attitude, so no resume or credits are necessary. Since the Chop Shop values attention to detail, visit their website to learn what will be expected of you, as well as the specifics of the program and the tone of the directors. Good luck!

What is Sound “Research”?

Posted by on May 2, 2016 | 0 comments

This is a guest contribution by Karen Collins. Karen is the Canada Research Chair in Interactive Audio at the Games Institute, University of Waterloo, Canada, and the director of Beep: A Documentary History of Game Sound. She’s been researching game audio for the past fifteen years, and in the process, published four books and nearly 100 research papers on sound. As Albert Einstein said, “If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?” Karen proudly admits she has no idea what she is doing. @GameSoundDoc


Don’t we already know what sound is? What do we need research for? I’m often met by surprise or confusion when I tell people I do research in sound. It may help to explain a few research projects that I’ve worked on in recent years to share the types of research that can be done in sound. These were for the most part done in a university setting, although some of the projects received some funding or support from private partners (e.g. Google, Microsoft)—I’ll talk about the academic-industry research crossover below.


Monthly Theme: Research

Posted by on May 1, 2016 | 0 comments



1. the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.
“This month on we’re going to be looking into the subject of research”

1. investigate systematically.
“What have you been researching? Would you like to share it with the community?”

The current state of audio technology is fascinating. A single person from home on a laptop can create their own DAW, plugins, use them to make music, mix a film, and author playable media. Physical modeling allows us to recreate believable sounding instruments from pure math. We can create convincing spacial audio in 3D game engines. We clean up audio removing extraneous noises with the precision of a surgeon who leaves no scars. We can capture the acoustic properties of a space, apply it to any sound, then remove the reverb we just added as if by magic. We can even morph and change the acoustic properties of a live environment in real-time. We can control sound with the press of a key, a slide on a touch-screen or a gesture in the air. But how did we get here, and where are we going?

For this month, DesigningSound is going to be looking at the subject of research and how it applies to audio. How does one conduct audio/sound research? What landmark studies contributed to where we are today in the audio-verse. What studies are currently being carried out and where might they take us?

Please email doron [at] this site to contribute an article for this month’s topic. And as always, please feel free to go “off-topic” if there’s something else you’re burning to share with the community.

Sunday Sound Thought 18 – Dependent Perception

Posted by on May 1, 2016 | 0 comments

As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…

I’ve had this one in the topic queue for a while, but couldn’t quite figure out how to approach it here…until a few days ago.

I walked into a restaurant’s restroom just as someone was leaving. The toilet, which had just been flushed, was refilling. I’m sure most of you can call up in your head the sound of a toilet basin refilling its water supply. This one sounded different. It was far more harmonically complex than the usual peaks you hear in the bed of white/pink noise, and it created this incredible drone in the tiled room. Then the toilet stopped filling, and I realized that the additional complexity was coming from a fan vent in the ceiling. This vent noise, 8 feet above and two feet to the left of the toilet, had sounded like it was coming directly from the toilet…like it was part of that other sound.

The way we perceive sounds in our environment can be greatly dependent on the presence of other sources of stimuli. In this case, both sound were affected by the other. One was enhanced by the presence of another sound, while the other was spatially altered by the first. This phenomenon was entirely dependent on the vagaries of the way our brain processes stimuli. As soon as the toilet stopped, my perception of the vent’s source changed to match its actual location. There are other examples. Michel Chion coined the term “entrainment” for the effect that visual elements in film have in our perception of a sound’s localization.

It’s just another reminder that everything, including sound design, is about context.

Thanks To This Month’s Contributors

Posted by on Apr 30, 2016 | 0 comments

As April’s topic closes out, we want to extend a thanks to this month’s contributors.

Our Inspirations / Distractions theme brought in an incredible amount of content from the community–and we hope their words have given you something to think about.

Here’s a chance to re-read them all. See you next month!